Week 1 in the land of the Teranga

I honestly questioned the wisdom of putting me (a Ghanaian) in a team to Senegal. For about a minute. But after the first week, I’ve thanked my stars I lucked my way into Team ACI (or Team Aces, depending on who you ask).

I’ve had the opportunity to practice a language I spent far too much time studying in school to lose (French) and to learn some basic vocabulary in another (Wolof). And now to the sights. We spent our first afternoon in Dakar doing some sightseeing. We visited the presidential palace (well sort of, we stood across the street and took pictures), the independence square, downtown Dakar and some of the major neighbourhoods. We ended the city tour with a visit to the African Renaissance Monument, a HUGE statue of a muscle-bound African man, carrying a child pointing towards the sea with a beautiful African woman by his side. We couldn’t go inside but apparently you could climb to the top of the man’s head and see pretty much all of Dakar. Crazy high.

Monday started off with an introductory presentation to the staff, for which I had to dust off my french and translate a quite a bit. With two languages and lengthy intros, 3 hours whizzed by. Then came our first of many Senegalese family style meals was a large bowl of ceebu-djen—rice; fish, cabbage, cassava and carrots. People marveled at how quickly my spoon moved.

The rest of the week has been spent doing staff and external stakeholder interviews during the day with Senegalese dishes for lunch and story-swapping over Thai, Lebanese and Chinese and more Senegalese food.

I’ll be the first to tell you African countries are not all the same but there’s been a lot about Dakar that reminds me of Accra: traffic, roads, construction everywhere, crazy ‘city bus’ and taxi drivers. Then there are the people. Physically, there’s a difference–Senegalese people are a lot taller and generally darker than Ghanaians. The boubou is a LOT more popular here (think long robes coming to around the knees or lower with trousers for the men and all the way down to the feet for women), as is the hijab for women. But inside they’re just as friendly and hospitable (Teranga is the Wolof word for hospitality). No wonder I’ve felt right at home here.

—Kojo Adjei-Barwuah

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